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Enki and Inanna: The Gifts of Civilization

By on Mar 27, 2014 in Spirituality | 4 comments

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According to Genesis God created man in His own image. Then He created woman from Adam’s rib so he wouldn’t be lonely. That bothers me and it can’t be right. I need to rid myself of the feeling that being a woman is somehow wrong, that my sexuality is dirty and not pleasing to God. Inanna is an imperfect role model for my purposes. It would be nice to find a nice refined Goddess but that’s part of my problem. Can a Goddess be both a nice, polite girl and divine to boot? Inanna with her over the top pride in her sexual prowess shows me there was once a time when a woman could shout on the mountain tops that she had a great vagina and not get raped. And she called the sexual shots. Not her father or her brother or her husband or her lover. She’s not a mother Goddess and she’s not into kids. She’s selfish, spoiled and immature. Maybe I’m just too shy. Imagine, if you can, what would have happened if Inanna had gone to a Catholic girl’s school taught by nuns. Sister Mary Hughes, you would have met your Waterloo. Inanna is what she is. Her existence is historical and equally as valid as Adam’s per the bible.

This is a seduction story but it’s a mutual seduction, in fact it’s a seduction competition. The characters are Inanna, who we have already met and Enki,1 the God of fresh water including rivers, lakes, springs, wells and all underground aquifers. By logical extension, it seems logical to me anyway, he is also the God of semen and all things creative. Enki is wise and magical and second only to An2  who was the first God of the firmament. His name derives from En meaning Lord and Ki meaning earth. He was worshiped from the Tigris and Euphrates river valley to the Levantine coast, an area that by today’s geography includes Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

500px-Hammurabi's_Babylonia_1.svgEnki’s town, Eridu, has an abzu,3 as do all the other Sumerian cities. An abzu is a water tank of some sort: a bath, a well, or maybe a pool. The Sumerians were successful mainly because of their advanced irrigation capability and their location in the rich river valley of the Tigris and Euphrates. Eridu is a swamp on the Euphrates and, as you can see from the map, not too far from Inanna’s town of Uruk/Unug.

Inanna, the other protagonist in this story, is a young maiden at the threshold of her powers. She decides to set off to visit Enki’s abzu at Eridu in the hopes of seducing him. Let’s not condemn the sexuality of the Gods. They had no concept of monogamy or distaste for incest. They are like children with developed sex organs. It was the beginning of time after all and there were only a couple of Gods in the gene pool.

There were people who thought I was making this up so I want to show the actual cuneiform tablets.4 This story is Tablet XV and XVI as shown here. VIXVI

As you can see the tablets are in fragments and parts of the story are missing. I may add in text for clarity and, if I do, I will put it in brackets. Anything that I put in quote marks is a direct translation of the text. There is dialog within the quoted material and the usual thing would be to put the dialog in quote marks. If I do this, I end up with doubling up on quote marks and that’s messy so I have decided to italicize the dialog. Italics are also used for foreign words. Let me know if this helps, hurts or if you have a better idea.  The following story was translated from the original by Oxford University. For the original go to http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.3.1#

The Gifts of Civilization

Inanna is enchanted with herself. “She put the su-gura, the desert crown, on her head [and] when she went out to the shepherd, to the sheepfold [she found that] her vulva was remarkable [that] her genitals were remarkable. She praised herself, full of delight at her genitals, she praised herself, full of delight at her genitals.”

She said “When I have gratified the Lord [and] when I have made brilliant, when I have made beautiful, when I have made glorious, when I have made perfect [and] luxuriant [and] exuberant [and] shimmering, I shall direct my steps to the abzu, to Eridu, [and] I myself shall speak coaxingly to him [Enki] in the abzu, in Eridu.”

There is a break in the tablets and twenty-one lines are missing. When it continues Inanna says, “I shall utter a plea to the Lord Enki. Like the sweet oil of the cedar. [Missing text] It shall never escape me that I have been neglected by him who has had sex.”

“On that day the maiden Inanna, holy Inanna, directed her steps all by herself towards Enki’s abzu in Eridu. On that day, he of exceptional knowledge, who knows the divine powers in heaven and earth, who from his own dwelling already knows the intentions of the gods, Enki, the king of the abzu, who even before holy Inanna had approached within six miles of the temple in Eridu, knew all about her enterprise. Enki spoke to his man “and gave him instructions: Come here, my man, listen to my words.”

Enki:  “When the maiden Inanna has entered the abzu and Eridu, offer her butter cake to eat. Let her be served cool refreshing water. Pour beer for her, in front of the Lion’s Gate,5  make her feel as if she is in her girlfriend’s house, make her feel as a colleague. You are to welcome holy Inanna at the holy table, at the table of An.”

“After Enki had spoken thus to him, Isimud the minister, followed his master’s instructions closely.” The text repeats exactly Enki’s words in the above quote.

“So it came about that Enki and Inanna were drinking beer together in the abzu and enjoying the taste of sweet wine. The bronze aga vessels6  were filled to the brim and the two of them started a competition, drinking from the bronze vessels of Uras.”7 What is the competition? Unfortunately there is a break in the tablet and thirty-five lines are missing.

When the text is picks up again Enki says, “I will give them to holy Inanna, my daughter.” Holy Inanna received heroism, power, wickedness, righteousness, the plundering of cities, making lamentations, rejoicing. “In the name of my power, in the name of my abzu, I will give them to holy Inanna, my daughter.”

“Holy Inanna received deceit, the rebel lands, kindness, being on the move, being sedentary.” There is missing text. “Holy Inanna received the craft of the carpenter, the craft of the coppersmith, the craft of the scribe, the craft of the smith, the craft of the leather-worker, the craft of the fuller, the craft of the builder, the craft of the reed-worker.

Enki:  In the name of my power, in the name of my abzu, I will give them to holy Inanna, my daughter.” There is missing text.

“Holy Inanna received wisdom, attentiveness, holy purification rites, the shepherd’s hut, piling up glowing charcoals, the sheepfold, respect, awe, reverent silence.”

He continues and gives her the kindling of fire, the extinguishing of fire, hard work, the assembled famiy, descendants, triumph, counseling, comforting, judging, and decision-making. There are seventy-eight lines of text missing.

Inanna repeats the list saying “He has given me . . . . . . . “ She enumerates the gifts he gave her.

There are thirty-five lines missing but it seems Inanna has left the premises and Enki has come to his senses. He realizes that he has given away the Me,8 the gifts of civilization, to Inanna and regrets his folly. He calls his minister to him.

Enki:  “Isimud, my minister, my Sweet Name of Heaven!”

Isimud:  “Enki, my master, I am at your service! What is your wish?”

Enki:  “Since she said that she would not depart from here for Uruk/Unug Kulaba, that she would not yet depart from here to the place where Utu [her brother lives], can I still reach her?”

But Inanna had gathered up the divine powers, and embarked onto the Boat of Heaven.” The Boat of Heaven is a euphemism for Inanna’s vulva. She carries the Me, the gifts of civilization, as a sexual power.

“The Boat of Heaven had already left the quay. As the effects of the beer cleared from him [Enki] who had drunk beer, from him who had drunk beer, as the effects of the beer cleared from Father Enki, who had drunk beer, the great lord Enki turned his attention to the [rest of the] building. The lord looked up at the abzu. King Enki turned his attention to Eridu.”

Enki:  Isimud, my minister, my Sweet Name of Heaven!

Isimud:  Enki, my master, I am at your service! What is your wish?

Enki:  Where are the office of the en priest, the office of lagar priest, divinity, the great and good crown, the royal throne?

Isimud:  My master has given them to his daughter.

Enki continues to question his minister about his missing belongings. He mentions the noble scepter, the staff and the crook, the noble dress, shepherdship, and kingship.

Each time his minister says, “My master has given them to his daughter.” Enki asks about the standard, the quiver, sexual intercourse, kissing, prostitution, running, forthright speech, deceitful speech, grandiloquent speech, the cultic prostitute, the holy tavern, the loud musical instruments, the art of song and venerable old age.

Isimud: “My master has given them to his daughter.

The prince spoke to his minister, Isimud, Enki addressed the Sweet Name of Heaven: Isimud, my minister, my Sweet Name of Heaven!

Isimud:  Enki, my master, I am at your service! What is your wish?

Enki:  Where has the Boat of Heaven reached now?

Isimud:  It has just now reached the [missing words] Quay.

Enki:  Go now! The enkum9 are to take the Boat of Heaven away from her!”

The minister Isimud spoke to holy Inanna: “My lady! Your father has sent me to you. Inanna, your father has sent me to you. What your father said was very serious. What Enki spoke was very serious. His important words cannot be countermanded.

Inana: What has my father said to you, what has he spoken? Why should his important words not be countermanded?

Isimud My master has spoken to me, Enki has said to me: Inana may travel to Uruk, but you are to get the Boat of Heaven back to Eridu for me.

Holy Inana spoke to the minister Isimud: “How could my father have changed what he said to me? How could he have altered his promise as far as I am concerned? How could he have discredited his important words to me? Was it falsehood that my father said to me, did he speak falsely to me? Has he sworn falsely by the name of his power and by the name of his abzu? Has he duplicitously sent you to me as a messenger?

Now as these words were still in her mouth, he got the enkum to seize hold of the Boat of Heaven.

Holy Inana addressed her minister Ninšubur: “Come, my good minister of E-ana!10 My fair-spoken minister! My envoy of reliable words! Water has never touched your hand, water has never touched your feet!”

So Inana got hold again of the divine powers, which had been presented to her, and the Boat of Heaven; and then for the second time the prince spoke to his minister Isimud. Enki addressed the Sweet Name of Heaven: Isimud, my minister, my Sweet Name of Heaven!”

Isimud:  “Enki, my master, I am at your service! What is your wish?”

Enki:  “Where has the Boat of Heaven reached now?”

Isimud:  “It has just now reached the holy [words missing]

Enki:  “Go now! The fifty giants of Eridu are to take the Boat of Heaven away from her!”

Inanna makes seven11 stops on the way to Eridu, her home and each time Enki sends out some kind of monster to stop her from getting away with the Me, the gifts of civilization. At the first stop he sent the enkum, at the second stop he sent giants, at the third he send fifty laḫama of the subterranean waters.

The text is very fragmentary at this point but Inanna and the Boat of Heaven finally reach Uruk.

“Her minister Ninsubur, spoke to holy Inanna, My lady, today you have brought the Boat of Heaven to the Gate of Joy to Uruk/Unug Kulaba. Now there will be rejoicing in our city, now there will be rejoicing in our city, [there will be] barges on our river [name missing].”

“Holy Inanna replied to her, Today I have brought the Boat of Heaven to the Gate of Joy, to Uruk/Unug Kulaba. It shall pass along the street magnificently. The people shall stand in the street full of awe.”

There will be a festival and great prayers will be said. Inanna says, “The king shall slaughter bulls, shall sacrifice sheep. He shall pour beer from a bowl. He shall have the šem and ala drums sound, and have the sweet-sounding tigi instruments play. The foreign lands shall declare my greatness. My people shall utter my praise.”

There are several lines missing.

“The prince addressed his minister Isimud, Enki spoke to the Sweet Name of Heaven: Isimud, my minister, my Sweet Name of Heaven!

Isimud:  “Enki, my master, I am at your service! What is your wish?”

Enki:  “Where has the Boat of Heaven reached now?”

Isimud:  “It has just now reached the White Quay [Uruk].”

Enki:  “Go now, [missing text] admiration [missing text] admiration [missing text] the Boat of Heaven. Holy Inana [missing text] admiration [missing text].”

It seems that Enki has given up and that, although upset at having lost the Me, he accepts it now as a fact and even has a grudging admiration of Inanna. Inanna is proud and celebrates her coup.

 

This story is myth, right? According to Dictionary.com a” myth is a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.”

Most myths are oral in nature. This one is unusual in that it is written in stone or, to be more exact, scratched in clay with a reed stylus. It predates the bible, a fact I find fascinating. There are multiple Gods in this story. I even hesitated there when I capitalized Gods. I felt as if I was committing a sacrilege. There is only one God. Right? Therefore anything that is plural should be lower case. Since it is myth it is the purview of archeologists and historians. Religion is the purview of theologians. That’s the way we look at it, we being those people who live in the United States of America where the dominant religion is Christianity. Christianity for us is not a myth; it’s a religion and the Epic of Gilgamesh is not a religion; it’s a myth. It’s all in your perspective. Religion, myth, cults, divinity, the sacred, and theology are all software words. The hardware is us, us the humans who have these thoughts.

What am I trying to get at? I’m hoping for an opening up. Knowledge always helps and knowledge of the myths should help. A patriarchal God is not the only God available. Maybe, just maybe, there could be something else.

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  1. Images of Enki show him with a double-helix snake of Caduceus, a medical symbol. The Caduceus, from the Greek, is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek Mythology. Mercury is Hermes’ Roman equivalent. Enki is shown with a horned crown of divinity and dressed in the skin of a carp. []
  2. A note on genealogy. It’s tough because every reference does it differently. An and Ki gave birth to Enki; Enlil, Lord of air, breath and word; Apsu, Lord of Wisdom and Aruru, a goddess. Enlil gave birth to Nanna (Sin) who in turn gave birth to Utu, the Sun God, and Inanna, Moon Goddess of strife and love. By this calculation, Enki is Inanna’s uncle. []
  3. The word abzu derives from Ab meaning water or semen and zu meaning “to know” or “deep.” It is the primordial water of creation and the abzu tank was vital to Sumerian ritual. []
  4. Cuneiform script is one of the earliest known systems of writing, distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. []
  5. Inanna is the Lion’s Gate. She is often shown with a lion on each side. []
  6. There is an Aga on the King’s list. []
  7. Uraš or Urash In Sumerian mythology Uras is a goddess of the earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god, Anu. She is the mother of the goddess Ninsun and a grandmother of the hero, Gilgamesh. []
  8. The Me  In Sumerian mythology are decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_(mythology []
  9. Enkum are temple treasurers; guardian deities of the foundations. []
  10. Words beginning with the letter E and followed by a dash indicate the name of a temple. []
  11. The three prime numbers: three, seven and thirteen appear often in mythology. They are considered sacred, holy and magical. []

4 Comments

  1. Vickey Monrean

    March 27, 2014

    Post a Reply

    I think you should be congratulated for the tenacity needed to write and research this story. It would be interesting to take the myth and analyze it much like deconstruction. Mother Goose is primarily political rhymes, fables teach lessons, fairy tales grasp beliefs and twists them-what is the role played by myths and this one in particular. After all, if we follow the tale of Adam and Eve, incest was beyond rampant. The Bible having skimmed neatly past obvious incest in literal translation. So what is it the myths are designed to tell us?

    • hannahpowers

      March 31, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Great comment. When I consider the work of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, I realize how much archetypal information has unconsciously become part of me. An image of the Goddess, of whom Inanna is an aspect, is in our collective subconscious as women and has been struggling to be free perhaps since the Adam and Eve myth was first perpetrated. And you are right that the role of myths has been twisted. Actually, history has been twisted and needs to be set straight. Neither history nor mythology is a science and history should be listed on the arts side of the Arts and Science divide. Yes, there are dates and dates are factual but that’s all. The rest is perception. Change the perception and you change history. And yes, incest must have been rampant. We are all siblings I guess.

  2. Cathy

    March 31, 2014

    Post a Reply

    What a wonderful powerful goddess — I love how into her physicality and sexual power she is! Fascinating alternate model for womanhood.

    • hannahpowers

      March 31, 2014

      Post a Reply

      You’ve got to love all that physicality. I don’t think I can go out and be Inanna but it sure would be fun if I could.

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